Review: The City War by Sam Starbuck (Warriors Of Rome #3)

The City War (Warriors of Rome, #3)The City War by Sam Starbuck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Senator Marcus Brutus has spent his life serving Rome, but it’s difficult to be a patriot when the Republic, barely recovered from a civil war, is under threat by its own leader. Brutus’s one retreat is his country home, where he steals a few precious days now and then with Cassius, his brother-in-law and fellow soldier—and the one he loves above all others. But the sickness at the heart of Rome is spreading, and even Brutus’s nights with Cassius can’t erase the knowledge that Gaius Julius Caesar is slowly becoming a tyrant.

I adored this book. It was extremely clever in its interpretation of the events leading up to the assassination of Julius Caesar and gave a conscience to Brutus instead of making him the villain of the story. I loved how Brutus was reluctant when he heard Cassius’s plan to kill Caesar and needed some convincing, eventually carrying out the deed with some reluctance. The story ended in an utterly believable fashion that didn’t glorify murder in the slightest and left me feeling sorry for everyone involved.

It was young servant Tiresias that really stole my heart, though. Rejected by his family, he comes to serve Brutus first as a horse-boy and then later at his home. He bears witness to the plot unfolding and offers Brutus support without judgment. I loved that they were both able to accept one another for who they were.

If you know anything about the assassination of Caesar and are looking for a a story set in Ancient Rome, you’ll love this. It fleshes out the facts with a human story that gives life to history and that’s exactly what I want from my historical romance. I’ll be looking for more of this author’s work in the future.

Wings Of Destruction signed with Less Than Three Press!

My ace m/m novella Wings Of Destruction has been signed with LT3 Press. I’m very excited! Wings Of Destruction is my first attempt at writing asexual romance and I’m very proud of it. I hope you’ll enjoy it as well. It’s an angel story set in a brutal post-apocalyptic future. That’s all I’m going to tell you about it right now.

I want to thank all of my readers for their support. Without readers there would be no authors! I’ve waited eight long years for this moment, believe it or not. Since writing my first novel in 2006, I’ve dealt with rejection, honed my skills and written millions of words. It’s been an amazing journey and it’s really just beginning, so I hope you’ll stick around and support Wings Of Destruction when it’s released.

In other news, I’ve taken a prompt for the Goodreads M/M Romance event Love’s Landscapes. I’ve completed my story over a marathon weekend. It’s a non-typical fantasy/sci-fi romance and I look forward to sharing it with everybody. I can’t leak details or the title and it’s with an editor right now so things may change, but I’m proud of this piece and it’s very near and dear to me.

Editing is continuing on Written In Stone, but it’s still not ready for prime-time. I was hoping for a Q1 release, but that hasn’t happened. I can’t set a date or really pin myself down on this project at the moment, only to promise that when it’s ready, you’ll be the first to know about it. I want a quality release that feels right and I’m committed to making that happen. I’ve decided on another big change that’s going to take more work, but I think I’ve finally put my finger on something that’s not working for me and it will be fixed. I love this book but it has been one hell of a struggle to get it on the page in a way that I’m satisfied with.

That’s all the news I have right now. I’m going to go and finish my celebratory cake and brainstorm for a new project. I wish you all well and I hope you’ll continue to follow my releases and reviews.

Review: Tuesday Apocalypse by Vicy Cross

Tuesday ApocalypseTuesday Apocalypse by Vicy Cross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the war-weary year of 1940, just one rundown hospital survives London’s collapse. Sister Barbara, a nun and volunteer nurse, inspires hope in her patients, but that faith is shaken when an unidentified aircraft explodes near the hospital. The half-eaten corpse beneath the mangled wreckage appears to corroborate the pilot’s story that some sort of “tentacle-monster” attacked his plane. However, Sister Barbara pushes these dangers aside and plunges beyond the rubble when the man she loves disappears in the wastelands. She discovers a bloodstained beauty in his place-but the girl’s outward innocence hides a voracious sexual appetite, and an even more disturbing secret.

This book was not at all what I expected, and yet compelling all the same. When I added this to my Xmas wish list, what I expected from the cover was a historical lesbian romance. What I got was a bizarre and sometimes horrifying monster-porn tale that captivated me more for its out-of-the-box weirdness than for any personal kinks of my own.

I’m not usually one to go for tentacle tales. My usual tastes revolve around consenting adults professing their undying love for one another. Yet this sexy-horror romp had me on the edge of my seat at times, even as I hid it from my coworkers lest they get an idea of what I was reading and be scandalized by it.

The “historical” angle is more for color than anything. If you pick this book up, what you will be getting is some “forbidden” m/f romance (since the main character is a nun), and some m/f, f/f and f/monster porn. A lot of the erotic fantasy in this book revolves around Sister Barbara wanting sex she’s not allowed to have. The horror angle is not for the faint of heart, either. There’s death, tentacles, bodily fluids and an alien pregnancy of sorts. The action is at times visceral and gruesome, but one thing I’ll give this book is that once it gets going, it’s a non-stop thrill ride. I could never claim to be bored and I had to keep reading like one stares at a bloody car accident with eyes that cannot look away from the horror. The writing is fluid and seems fitting for the era, with Sister Barbara shocked at the things happening all around her and writing it all down in her diary.

Having finished it, I still can’t say I’ve become some sort of overnight convert to monster porn, but I am more intrigued. I’d say I would definitely try this kind of book again, though I have to be in the right mindset to appreciate something like this in all its horrific glory instead of just being outright disturbed by it.

If you’re looking for an unusual read that’s heavy on the sex and horror, Tuesday Apocalypse might be your perfect wet dream. I don’t recommend it to the easily disturbed, however.

New F/F Free Story: Memories In The Mist

A new f/f short is available at the Free Stories page! This one is too short to do an official ebook release, so I’m putting it online for your entertainment. Enjoy!

Memories In The Mist
Rushing home to see her dying father, Vasira takes a shortcut through an uncharted valley. A monster lies in wait, however – guardian of a battleground known only in legends. Vasira must find common ground with the guardian if she is to pass – but it turns out they have more in common than they realize…
Genre: Fantasy
Warnings: None
Word Count: 1623

Review: Legal Briefs, A Storm Moon Press Charity Anthology

Legal BriefsLegal Briefs by Blaine D. Arden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall: Two amazing stories in the form of Honest Lawyers and His Best Defense, two good stories (24 Hours and Study Buddy) and two stories I didn’t much care for (Double Cross and Against The Law). This is a very mixed anthology, so there’s something for everyone. Different stories in this book will speak to different people, but few will love every story in it. Legal Briefs is cheap and proceeds benefit Lambda Legal, so I recommend it even if you find not all the stories are in genres you like. Kudos goes to Storm Moon Press for putting together an anthology that spans a range of genres and the whole LGBT spectrum.

Honest Lawyers by Kelly Rand – Court reporter Luna is flattered by law student Craig’s attentions, but the fear of rejection makes her nervous about opening up to him about her status as a trans woman. – 5 stars. Loved this story. Luna was easy to empathize with as she fell for Craig, and the conversation they have about Luna’s status as a trans* woman was so filled with acceptance and loving that I had tears in my eyes. Luna and Craig were lovely people and I wanted them to succeed with their relationship. This story left me with a wonderful warm feeling inside and I would heartily recommend the anthology on the strength of this alone.

24 Hours by Cari Z – 3.5 stars. Evan defends himself in a bar-room brawl and 24 hours later has to defend himself again, this time to his drunken attacker’s lawyer, who fortunately has as little patience for his client as Evan did. A somewhat unbelievable and forgettable story, but fun and charming regardless.

Study Buddy by Stella Harris – 4 stars. Lawyer Melanie is starting to come to terms with her attraction to women, something her new Study Buddy April is happy to help with. A good coming-to-terms with sexuality story. I could relate to Melanie’s nerves as she went to the strip club and the sex scene was hot. A good f/f story.

His Best Defense by Blaine D. Arden – 5 stars. Master Illan is a powerhouse in the Surim court, but it’s newcomer Daru who proves to be His Best Defense against threats both without and within. Loved this story! Second only to Honest Lawyers in this anthology. Arden builds a fascinating fantasy/sci-fi world and the plot is full of twists. I really felt the romance in this one and its a story I would definitely read again. I’d love to see the author write something else in this world.

Double Cross by Salome Wilde – DNF. The moment Candy LeBon walks into Detective Calvin Guy’s life, he suspects a double-cross, but even he’s unprepared for the extent of twisted path she’ll lead him down. This one didn’t click with me at all. If you’re into the hard-boiled detective genre this will be a treat for you as it’s really well-written language-wise, but I just found my attention drifting as the narrator talked about “dolls” and “babes” while smoking and drinking profusely. It might work for you but to me it seemed like all the tropes and trappings of the genre distracted from the actual story being told.

Against The Law by Gryvon – 2 stars. In Henry’s country, his attraction to Abel is against the law, but his secret is kept safe by another who harbors same-sex attractions—Henry’s wife. I was never quite sure if this one was fantasy or historical, because I didn’t find myself drawn into its world. Everything happened very quickly and I didn’t really feel a whole lot about Henry, Abel or their relationship.

Review: Sacrificed, a Storm Moon Press Anthology

SacrificedSacrificed by Della R. Buckland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. There were some occasional editing mistakes, but the overall quality of the writing was excellent. Breakdown of individual stories is as follows:

The Solstice Kiss by Vivian Caethe – 4 stars. Lorena is chosen by the goddess Awilix as a sacrifice. Lorena soon feels the goddess’s presence in erotic dreams and goes to her on the summer solstice. A good story to open with. Sensual and erotic, this tale holds nothing back. While this story does not have a typical ending, I’d hesitate to say it wasn’t happy.

Following The Old Ways by Meri Benson – 4 stars. My favorite story in this anthology. Two women in a typical fantasy village find love in each other, but one is to be sacrificed to a dragon. Despite this kind of story being retold many times, the author manages to put a unique twist on it. I felt a lot of love and chemistry between Kassandra and Rebekah and the story ends in a super-satisfying way.

Sacrificial Destiny by Della R. Buckland – 3.5 stars. Song is accepted by the dragon Farcloud as a tribute. At first she is reluctant, but Farcloud’s human form as Isaronel convinces her that servitude can be pleasurable. This story isn’t helped by where it falls in the anthology. Another dragon story right after a good one made this collection feel a little same-y. It’s also a little slow to start. However, this story was quite different and once I got into it, things moved at a decent pace and I found myself enjoying it quite a lot.

Spellbound by Jason Allard – 2.5 stars. Rebel girl Lucy is to sacrificed to an otherworldly entity, but sorcerer’s apprentice Imogen has other ideas. Helping Lucy to escape, sorcerer Linn hunts them both. Despite being well written, I just didn’t enjoy this. I didn’t feel the love between Imogen and Lucy, who seemed more like friends than lovers. There was a spark missing from this story that left me wanting.

Review: Tragedy by Sydney M. Cooper

Tragedy (Forsaken Lands #1)Tragedy by Sydney M. Cooper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vicky’s Note: While not a GLBT romance, this book has a major GLBT character and so it may be of interest.

I received this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

Aiasjia and Teveres hold the powers of life and death in their hands. Though they do not know it, their destinies are intricately tied to the fate of their world; it is by their success or failure that their people survive. The leaders of their homeland have been captured, the high priest who has taken over is not who he seems, and the warring Kaldari people have broken through their borders with the intent to destroy everything they ever knew. It is up to them to find a way to move beyond their own limitations to save what is left of their home before they lose their society forever.

I loved this book. I thought about it at length when I wasn’t reading it. I feared for its characters. I lost sleep and many breaks at work pouring over its pages. It’s been a while since I felt this way about a novel, despite my voracious reading habits.

The characters are rich and vastly complicated: we have Aia, who can heal and read minds, Teveres who can kill with a thought, Les who has the power to extinguish light and Garren, a Kaldari with no obvious powers but who follows his sense of duty. I loved (and sometimes hated) them, especially Teveres who has as much to loathe as to love about him. There was also a pleasant surprise in the form of a GLBT character in a book that’s not specifically targeted at that audience. I’m always happy to find diversity in genre fiction and I hope to see more of that character’s arc in the next book.

The plot is captivating, with a few scenes so heart and gut wrenching I teared up a few times in company. I was surprised by the ending, but be warned: there is no resolution. This novel ends on a cliffhanger which left me salivating for more and desperate to learn the fates of characters I fell in love with. I can’t wait for the sequel, which is on my must-buy list for sure.

The writing, spelling and grammar is good overall, but the book probably could have used one more proofread. The occasional sentence feels like its missing a word here and there, which made me reread one or two passages to make sure I was understanding what was being said. It’s really hard to root out every error and Tragedy is a lot better in this department than a lot of self-published novels. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

If you’re looking for a good fantasy novel to sink your teeth into, with deep, interesting characters, Tragedy should be right up your alley. I’m so glad I won this and got the chance to reignite my love of fantasy. Tragedy is everything fantasy should be and I can’t wait to see how the sequels play out.

10 M/M Webcomics You Should Check Out

I’ve been meaning to write this list for a long time. Some of these webcomics are popular, some are not. I can guarantee that all of them are good in one way or another and deserve your support. Most of them are 18+, so proceed with that in mind.

I’d like to do a list of LBT webcomics, but I need some good tips on what to read. Email me your favorites at admin@victoriazagar.com and I’ll try them.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 7.16.16 PM1. Starfighter. It’s been a while since I devoured the entire webcomic in one sitting and I haven’t yet gotten around to reading Chapter 3, but this comic about two space fighter pilots is one of my favorite M/M webcomics. The art style is moody and unique, with a sparse use of color, and the story is super hot!

 

 

2. Teahouse. Teahouse is the story of a fancy Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 7.13.23 PMbrothel in the country of Ivore following the lives of the courtesans who live there, as well as the lives of the people who seek them out. The first thing you’ll notice about Teahouse is the art. Teahouse is full color with some exquisite detail in the environments and character art. I’ve never seen such fine art in a free webcomic and I love the diverse cast of characters. I follow this one on a regular basis.

 

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 6.26.50 PM3. Elan Meets Rafa. I found this one purely by accident sometime last week and once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. After being disinherited by his father, Elan winds up in a seedy neighborhood where he’s hit by Rafa’s car while chasing his kitty Murakami who ran into the street. Rafa takes pity on Elan and offers him a place to stay, and the two become closer.

 

 

4. The Element Of SurpriseIn an unnamed city in an unnamed state somewhere in 

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 7.29.59 PMAmerica’s “rust belt”, two men meet. Mark, an overmodest young carpenter, comes to the aid of Ben, an overconfident reporter for the city’s newspaper; soon Mark finds himself drawn into the crime and vice of local politics while simultaneously, unwillingly, falling in love with Ben. I fell in love with this webcomic after accidentally stumbling onto it about a year ago. The art is simplistic and the story is more sweet than sexy, but this is one of my favorites and I follow every update.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 7.39.00 PM5. Artifice. I’ve been following Yaoi 911‘s webcomics for a long time now, but Artifice is definitely my favorite. It’s the story of Deacon, an android who is under investigation by a psychologist to find out why he rebelled against his mission. The reason lies in a man named Jeff, who gets under Deacon’s skin and brings out a more human side in him.

 

6. The Less Than Epic Adventures of T.J and Amal.  In the span of a single day, Amal calls Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 7.42.09 PMoff his arranged marriage, comes out to his conservative parents, promptly gets disowned, goes on a bender… and wakes up the next morning to find TJ, a lanky, dreadlocked vagrant, frying eggs and singing Paul Simon in his kitchen. TJ claims that the two have made a drunken pact to drive all the way from Berkeley to Providence. As it happens, Amal promised his sister he’d be there for her graduation from Brown University. And TJ, well… TJ has his own reasons. The agreement is simple: Amal does the driving; TJ pays the way – but a 3500 mile journey leaves plenty of time for things to get complicated.
A great road trip webcomic with interesting, well-developed characters. There’s a lot to read, but it’s well worth the time investment.

 

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 7.50.18 PM7. Grave ImpressionsThough overseas the world may be condensed to right or wrong, punctuated by a hail of bullets, life on the homefront is a little more complicated, particularly for one aspiring detective and his close circle of friends. Fighting the normative tide in their personal and private lives, they must keep three simple rules in mind:
Loose lips sink ships, conformity is key, and most of all, no one is who they appear to be.
I haven’t spent much time with this one yet, but the premise is interesting and the art is well done.

 

8. Purpurea NoxaSet in a secret world of darkness inhabited by vampires, werewolves Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.01.32 PMand other creatures of the supernatural universe, this story focuses on two cities – Lucca and Pisa (located in Tuscany, Italy) – who are old enemies over past disagreements and frequently face-off in a series of predominantly bloody clashes. I’m not usually a big vampire fan, but what I’ve read  of this webcomic so far has been exciting and hot.

 

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.09.04 PM9. Devoto: Music In Hell. This is the story of how the now-fallen Principality of Music, formerly an angel of decent reputation, was given an opportunity to provide inspiration for one working man desperately in need of a muse. Guys make out. A unique art style sets this one aside from the others. Some amazingly drawn sex scenes really stand out.

 

10. The Young Protectors. If you like gay superheroes, you’ll love The Young Protectors. Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.12.53 PMPersonally, I never cared for this one as much as Artifice, but I’m well behind with reading and need to catch up, so I might like it more now. This one doesn’t waste any time getting to the kissing, so if you need payoff right away this might be for you.

 

Review: Rainbow Briefs by Kira Harp

Rainbow BriefsRainbow Briefs by Kira Harp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These fifteen stories were inspired by images from the Young Adult LGBT Books Group. In these pages you’ll find LGBTQ teenagers living their lives – experiencing first encounters and long relationships, coming out, staying closeted, questioning, loving, having adventures, dealing with family, with prejudice, with magic.

Rainbow Briefs was hands-down my favorite anthology read of 2013. The quality and variety of these shorts is amazing considering this book is free. I especially liked that this anthology was LGBTQ, with a nice mixture of lesbian, gay and trans stories to satisfy almost everyone.

Despite being YA, these stories don’t speak down to their audience. I could relate to a lot of what was written from my own teenage years and it’s rare I find that level of authenticity in any story. Kira Harp is certainly a master at speaking to a young adult audience and I would absolutely recommend this to any teenager struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. I also recommend it for adults as well – these stories transcend the label of YA and are something everyone can read and enjoy.

I would have rated almost all of the stories four or five stars, but Designing Sam was easily my favorite. I haven’t been moved to tears at a book for a long time, but this honest depiction of a trans teenager struggling with family and identity in a realistic manner really moved me. In a genre where sometimes we are so eager to get our HEA that we make families overwhelmingly accepting, it was good to see a parent in denial and a situation that wasn’t wrapped up neatly with a bow on top. It’s a stark reminder that we have a lot of work to do as a community to increase acceptance and awareness of LGBTQ issues.

I think you should go and download this book right now. I think you should spend a couple of hours pouring over these stories, reading even the ones that fall outside of your typical reading diet. Then pass it on to a young person you know who needs to understand that they are not alone in the world. These positive yet realistic stories could literally change a life.

Ten Writing Resolutions For The New Year

1. Work more consistently on Magic Man. It’s a great story that has a lot of potential. I’d like to actually finish it this year.

2. Reorganize this site. Things have become a mess. I need to organize pages better so people can find the content they want, including the free stories.

3. Finish editing work on Written In Stone and release it in Q1 of this year. What was a Culture Wars novel is now a novel in the New World Rising series. Basically I’m splitting the series in two – the Culture Wars series will continue to detail romances during the war, while the New World Rising series will talk about the politics leading up to the war. I’ll explain everything and post a detailed timeline of events when I have everything in place.

4. Rewrite promising old manuscripts. On my computer I have six or so completed novels, all needing massive amounts of work. My style has evolved over the years, and these works need some serious TLC to reach my standards. I want these books out, and so my resolution is to rewrite, thoroughly edit and release/submit to a publisher at least 2 of these this year.

5. Write another Culture Wars/New World Rising novel this year. I love these books. They mean a lot to me and I love working on them. I want to keep them coming on a regular basis.

6. Write at least two novels of 60,000 words or greater. I wrote two novels in 2013. There’s no reason I can’t keep up that pace.

7. Release at least one F/F novel or novella this year. I’ve concentrated on building my M/M fanbase so far, but I love F/F fiction and reject the notion some people have that it doesn’t sell. My free lesbian fiction consistently ranks up there with my free M/M fiction in terms of downloads, and I want to release a novel for all the people who love stories of two women in love.

8. Keep up with reviews and reduce wait times. As an author, I love to read, but I regret to admit that some of the lovely people who offered titles for review have had to wait several months for their reviews. I’ll try harder this year!

9. Get at least one novel published by a small press publisher.
I love the control I have in self-publishing, but there are times I would love more help, especially with editing and cover design. I want my works to reach a wider audience, but finding the right publisher is key. I resolve that this will be the year I finally do it.

10. Listen to my readers. Your input has been key all along. Your feedback is crucial to Infinite Love. I strive to be approachable at all times, and I never respond negatively to honest opinions. I’m still learning a lot about this industry and my readers, but every comment and every review you make is heard. It’s my policy not to directly respond to criticism because I wouldn’t want my words to be misconstrued, but some of the more difficult reviews I’ve read have actually been the ones that improved my craft the most and challenged me to do better. I want to thank you all and wish you a Happy New Year.